Populism and Economic Upheavals since 1870: A Quantitative Analysis

Start of Project: 01.10.2017 — End of Project: 30.09.2020

Populism is one of the main challenges of our time. However, the phenomenon has not been sufficiently researched so far, especially in economics. In particular, there is a lack of sustainable prevention strategies. This project quantifies the electoral results and government participation of populists since 1870. We study two main questions empirically:

  1. What explains the success of populist parties? Can economic upheavals such as crises, globalization and growing inequality explain the ups and downs of populism?
  2. What are the economic and political consequences of populists in power?

The project has two main parts. In the first part, a database (“Census of Populism”) is created. This database quantifies the vote share and characteristics of populist parties and leaders in about 70 countries from 1870 until today. Building on this data archive we then explore the determinants of populism over the past 150 years, in particular driving factors such as financial crises, globalization and inequality. The second part of the project focuses on about 100 episodes in which populists where in power, exploring the economic and political developments under populist rule. We focus, in particular, on the implications for growth, financial markets, and for political stability. Besides bringing new facts and data to the debate, the project aims to generate concrete policy recommendations for dealing with populism.